Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On "Jeffing": words from an old, happily-married man

In yesterday's lively meta the subject of "Jeffing" came up. The word is derived thus:
"Just Friends"
=> JF
=> "Jeff"
We heard comments both from Jeffers and the Jeffed. I'd like to add a couple of my own.

Were being Jeffed  an Olympic event, I would have taken a gold medal. I am deeply experienced. If experience qualifies one to comment, I am highly qualified. And so I speak:

To the Jeffed
Be sympathetic. Try to put yourself in her sandals. (Or "his"; sometimes men do Jeff women.)

Here's this adoring, eager, starry-eyed fellow. You don't want to break his heart or harsh his mellow... but you just don't feel what he feels. You don't want what he wants. The attention and all are flattering and nice, but it isn't fair to him to let him keep casting his line into a lake with no fish for him.

So what do you do? You tell him, as nicely as you can. There's no happy way to do it. It's a lose::lose, but it has to be done. If she's a decent girl, it kills her to have to do it. (If she isn't a "decent girl," what the heck are you barking after her for?)

Second, be trustful. I look back to one girl I loved desperately (that's a key word). We had a tumultuous relationship, with sparks and unsparks, and a lot of on and off. She ended up Jeffing me.

I was absolutely shattered, I walked about as a dead man for a long time.

Now? Oh, thank God she Jeffed me. Marriage would have been disastrous. I didn't see it at the time; I'm married now, and I see it with crystal clarity. I'd have been a horrid husband to her, and she... wouldn't have made me happy.

But you never could have told me either at the time.

Plus, I'd not have married the wonderful woman I'm married to.

Plus-plus, I learned impor... wait, that's not accurate. I began learning important truths that I could not have learned sufficiently from a book. It was all part of God's training program. He knew what He was doing, even though I didn't.

But I could have known, couldn't I? Oh, not the specifics, but the grand picture. What was He doing? Conforming me to Christ's likeness through suffering. It's not like He didn't tell me, either (Rom. 8:28-30; Heb. 5:8).

Don't give up on marriage, yet learn to be content in Christ now, and to be useful now. Because the cruel irony of the universe is that desperation is not attractive, it is repellant.

To the Jeffers
My word to you is briefer.

As you see already, you have my sympathy. I know Jeffers come in both genders. But let me just offer one challenge.

The idea that billowy waves of romantic love and firework-feelings constitute the prime requirement of marriage is a lie. It is Biblically baseless. It is founded in a wave of romantic literature that began mere centuries ago, and it is fed by Hollywood — which, as we know, is Expert in matters of morality and fidelity and marriage and God and character.

< /blistering and hopefully obvious sarcasm >

Note I don't say one thing against romance and emotion and passion. I'm in favor of all three! But I do say put them in their place.

I received some off-line correspondence related to yesterday's thread. One was from a sister in Christ, who wrote that many of the comments left her feeling sad. She was concerned for girls (boys too, I'd add) who "don’t recognize that solid and steady and faithful and companionable and kind are wonderful traits in husbands," so they “Jeff” these single guys — and later the divorced moms realize what a treasure such men are.

Because they married what they wanted, only too late to discover what they needed.

This is a theme I develop at length, for both sexes, in the Proverbs book. I do commend it to you, especially right  now while it's 50% off.



Robert said...

My hope for my boys is that they learn the truth about passion being part of the enjoyment of marriage and not the enjoyment of self-fulfillment. I grew up with the latter thought in mind and have dealt with that since becoming married and God showing me the truth.

The thing is, I can actually enjoy my marriage now more than I did before. And just so people aren't fooled by externalities, I remained a virgin until I was married. Sinful passion can be there to a very strong degree without being totally fulfilled. That doesn't make it any less problematic to have a wrong understanding of the true place for passion being in marriage alone.

Again, the correct thoughts from the Bible on this matter are explained in "God's Wisdom in Proverbs" and have given me an even richer understanding of the place for passion in marriage. I can't think of a person who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


As I look back on my years of "sport dating" (ugh), and thank God for protecting me from my own foolishness, I want a better model for my boys - a better process, a clearer goal, better understanding, more wisdom...


Yesterday's meta was fascinating.


Aaron said...


I found myself saying "Amen" to your post. God was also extremely gracious to me. I wouldn't call what I did "sport dating" because it was far worse but the Lord kept me safe and in His good grace elected to save me.


I can't speak to your situation personally. I can only tell you what I see here. And that is a lot of singles claiming they want something but going about it the wrong way. If I knew somebody that was great at my job, I'd hang around him. I'd pester him. I'd insert myself into his life and do everything to absorb his knowledge. I'd pepper him with questions about how to do the job better. I don't see that happening with single men or women. In fact, I see the opposite. I see singles eschew the advice of married folks like myself, who remember being single with the perfection that comes with hindsight.

I'll give one brief example. I know many young ladies who by their own admission desire to be wives. Yet they do not know how to cook. So when I tell them...learn to cook, do they say...great advice? No, they'd prefer to go to college or even seminary to learn whatever they want to learn. I have the same experience with single men.

Singles should be seeking married persons to mentor them.

Marla said...

I was very empathetic to many of the comments on yesterday's post. I come from an engineering/accounting background, and my husband was in math/IT. (Can you say 'socially awkward'?)
I actually jeffed my husband on our first date -- I didn't really know him that well, and was really tired of the date-for-a-few-months-figure-out-we're-not-a-good-match-have-to-break-it-off scene.

I just wanted him to know not to expect much. We became very good friends and then--what can I say?--he grew on me, and all his great husband traits shown out like the dawn. :) He is more than a few years older than me, but that has worked out very well (18 years at this point).

I remember very well what it was like to be single. Dating is not fun. I really dreaded having to break off relationships -- there just is no easy/nice way.
Before my husband and I met, we had both shifted to 'maybe we're not going to get married, maybe God has a different plan' mode. Maybe that affected how we viewed our relationship, who knows.
Anyway, I'll be praying for those who commented yesterday. Both my husband and I could relate in many ways.

Mizz Harpy said...

I've always known that the bodice ripper type of passionate love is unreal. I was fortunate go grow up in a small town during the '60s and '70s and had many examples of mature marriages including my parents, grandparents and their friends. There are few things more beautiful than seeing a couple who have been married 40-50+ years who communicate wordlessly and still hold hands and kiss. I loved watching my maternal grandparents working in the kitchen together. It was like a ballet. They made making breakfast together or cleaning up afterward look graceful. I agree that singles need to see this sort of thing modeled for them since so many come from homes where this sort of love is absent. The only way churches are going to help with this is when they are willing to abandon the current tendency to segregate members according to their status on a federal income tax form.

Marla states what I've felt about dating for a long time.

AmandaE said...

As a newly married men, I can second/third/fourth/fifth the advice to seek out older, godly couples. I did to some extent but I could have used more.

I also love your pastoral heart on this subject Dan. You haven't taken either side because you realize there is a lot of miscommunication and hurt feelings with both genders. Being single in this day and age is like navigating a minefield; everyone appears on the other side with some measure of wounds.

As a side note, I like how you explained the difference between God's will of decree vs. His will of command. Know anyone who has written a really good, detailed book talking about those things?


Fred Butler said...

My wife and I were good friends for at least 4 years before there were any "sparks" so to speak. I'd been jeffed countless times. We called it "getting a Heisman" Look at the trophy and you get the idea.

Anyhow, it was the friend aspect of mine and my wife's relationship that drew us together. Who else do you want to marry? We always tell single kids looking for marriage to always pay attention to your friends.

Wendy said...

I feel left out; I've never been on either end of a Jeffing.

There is a lot of talk about singles being mentored by older, married couples or at least observing them.

What if that happens and the girl already knows how to cook amazingly, sew/mend, balance the household budget, raise kids, keep an orderly and clean house, be hospitable, serve in various ministries, etc...what then?? You can continue watching the couples to see how they interact, but chances are you won't see how they handle their disagreements or submission issues or that sort of thing until you are being mentored as the other half of a married couple.

That's the part that makes contentment with unfulfilled desires a tad hard...and yes, I struggle with frustration :)

Robert said...

Wow...just finidhed Chapter 7 and I'm feeling rather unwise as a husband. Can't wait to run through Chapter 8 and see how much more work I have to do in parenting. Seriously, though, this book is challenging in a wonderful way. I think I might give this one to my youth pastor as well. Talk about a good one-two punch!

jmb said...

Good post, and I don't even mind that my name is linked to a rather unpleasant experience. But, then again, it often is.

Rachael Starke said...

Me too with the "fascinating meta".

To be honest, I thought your were going to to that thing you do where you take a phrase, and twist it into a wonderful Gospelly pretzel.

IOW, there really is no "just friends" in marriage. It's the critical ingredient.

I had my own experiences with being Jeffed that sound similar to yours, Dan. And I now have the same response - thank you God.

I have a somewhat similar story to Marla's. Short version - I was reticent to marry my husband because I was, if you can imagine, worried that we were such good friends. We didn't have that kind of fiery, all-consuming passion (*cough* idolatry *cough*) for one another that I saw in other couples. But I just knew he was the first person I ever felt I could be me around, not the sort of packaged, scripted me I tried be with all the seminary guys I thought I was supposed to like - because those were the only godly ones, right? Ahem. He was also the very first man I'd ever dated who actually told me within a month that he was in this for potential marriage (versus a lark, manipulative/aimless friendship, etc.). I responded to this utterly manly, Biblical approach - by almost dumping him out of sheer panic.

To be honest, the last couple months have been some of our hardest, mostly due to the "lifeness" of life - work challenges, parenting, church struggles, I may be having a mid-life crisis a decade early, etc. But I can still say that I see clearly how my husband is still my very best friend, and how God has used us for eachother's sanctification, and His glory.

Aaron said...


First, I definately sympathize with those single persons who want to find a Godly mate and haven't. Second, I just want to remind you that my post was not directed at you or anybody else specifically but just at some of the things I have personally witnessed and personally encountered. Obviously, I don't know you outside of your comments here so I'm in no position to (a) judge or (b) counsel your particular situation. Lastly, IMHO, observation is not even close to a mentor relationship. It's the difference between watching Iron Chef and having Bobby Flay teach you how to cook. And...AND...the mentor relationship isn't all about figuring out how to run a marriage. That is certainly helpful. But when I said it's a good idea about seekiing a mentor, the idea is to get advice on how to attract a mate.

Bike Bubba said...

Was jeffed many times before wedlock, and as I think of the way my wife responds to me, all I can say to those ladies who jeffed me is....

THANK YOU! (and I hope and pray you found a man worth not jeffing!)

Wendy said...

Sir Aaron,
My post was not directed at you either. There seemed to be a few other comments (in yesterdays thread) that pointed out integrating singles and others for the same purpose you mentioned. You just reminded me of them.

rockingwithhawking said...

Fred Butler said:

"We always tell single kids looking for marriage to always pay attention to your friends."

If so, then hopefully I can become better friends with the one who just Jeffed me? Just kidding. ;-)

That's a good point though.

Aaron said...


Without going into great detail, when I was dating I had several women "jeff" me only to ask me if "my offer" was still open a little while later. So the answer isn't always just to give up. Of course, I had a mentor so to speak.

But you see, people don't ask for my advice because I'm married and would never understand (as if women have changed since I was dating).

DJP said...

Oh BTW, I also knew a drive-jeffed-single-guys-crazy of a girl who jeffed a guy who adored her, he never dropped the torch, and years later — yeppers — they married.

Which said story can affect a jeffed guy the same way a gamble-holic is affected by seeing a jackpot won on the machine he'd just walked away from.

Anonymous said...

Dan, just wanted to say thanks for the last few posts! It's also making me wish I had your Proverbs book - I ordered it, and it's now sitting at my parents' home back in Florida(while I sit here in Scotland), but I'm looking forward to reading it once I get back(November).

I'm also sorry I missed the comment thread the other day, being a single fellow myself. But I was encouraged by reading what others had posted.

Sometimes I feel I need to be more purposeful about seeking a wife(where's my Rebecca?) - other times I feel I need to stop worrying about marriage while I pour myself into the relationships I have right now. I won't say where I'm sitting on that spectrum right now! I will say though, that reading everyone's comments encouraged me in being reminded that God truly has a remnant, and that God-fearing people are not so rare as I might sometimes fear.

DJP said...

Ah, Scotland. sigh Beautiful, stirring land.

Well, I say do both. Don't so focus on marriage so much that you look back and realize you didn't make much of what God was putting on your plate at this point (I have a lot of that kind of regret); but don't forget it so much that you wake up at 55 and realize that starting a family just isn't likely to happen.

Simple, see? So: on "three"! One... two...


Sir Brass said...

Dan, I think I'll chime in here (seems more on-topic to the meta than posting it in the previous meta):

So, yes, I don't want to wake up one day and find that at 55 I'm just not likely to start a family. At the same time, I just can't seem to attract a decent, reasonably stable Christ-loving, girl who is willing to even go on a first date with me.

My parents, who for years constantly and consistently said, "Son, you do not need to be in a rush," are now saying, "Son, we're wondering if you are planning on getting married someday."

I haven't had a real date with a girl since my last girlfriend 9 years ago. Lots of rejections, though. Really feeling like rock & a hard place, to be quite honest.